Sunday, May 31, 2009

apple cardamom cake with caramel frosting

This cake is truly lovely. In the past it has made work appearances for a couple of colleagues birthdays. More recently, it has become my husbands favorite cake. He wants the whole thing for himself. I can't really blame him- it is dense, super moist and spicy with a gorgeous caramel frosting (that's really more of a glaze). A wedge for breakfast with a cup of coffee makes facing the day that much easier. I firmly believe in cake for breakfast.

The cake recipe is from Everyday Foods magazine. They call it "applesauce cake". But I prefer "apple cardamom cake" because the addition of this spice really makes it special. It is perfect all on its own or with a dusting of powdered sugar. But if you really want to gild the lily, the caramel frosting is in order. The caramel frosting recipe is from The Joy of Cooking.

It is probably bad form to include a recipe that requires a candy thermometer, but I can assure you that creating this frosting is quite satisfying in a mad scientist sort of way. Please just be warned that the caramel gets quite hot while it's cooking and no matter how tempting it might be to dip a spoon in and taste it, it is important to resist.

Apple Cardamom Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 cups Basic Applesauce (if you make your own, bless you, and feel free to use it here. I don't and so I prefer to use Trader Joes Chunky Applesauce. But any store-bought chunky applesauce is fine.)
nonstick cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Set aside.

2) In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combines. Beat in applesauce.

3) Generously coat a nonstick 9-inch tube pan (I use bundt pan) with cooking spray. Spoon batter into pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (but slightly wet), 50 to 60 minutes.

4) Cool on a wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out of pan onto a cutting board or baking sheet; invert cake onto rack, top side up. Please step back and admire it's prettiness and the incredible spicy fog now filling your hoome. Cool completely. If you have time and a sense of adventure, proceed to the Caramel frosting.

Old Fashioned Caramel Frosting

2 cups pack light or dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream (can't skimp here, not even half n half will work. Full fat only)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons rum (optional- I've never included this, if someone does, please let me know how it turns out)

1) Combine brown sugar and heavy cream in a medium, heavy saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat just until the mixture begins to simmer.

2) Stop stirring, cover, and simmer for 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar. Uncover and wash any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Cook, uncovered, until the syrup reaches 238 (this is also called soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and add, without stirring, the 3 tablespoons butter.
3) Set aside, again no stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture cools to 110, this takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Then add the vanilla, and if using, the rum. Beat until the frosting cools and is thickened to a spreadable consistency. If the frosting becomes too think, thin slightly with additional heavy cream.

4) Pour/spread the frosting over the cooled apple cardamom cake. Give the frosting at least a minute to set before attacking...